The Attitude (was: the Internet Backbone)

William Allen Simpson wsimpson at
Sun Apr 14 10:30:03 UTC 1996

Catching up on my email after tax week (did anyone else notice that
there were a lot fewer postings on this and other lists this past

> From: Sean Doran <smd at>
> It's because I'm an evil asshole determined to protect my
> employer's interests and make our shareholders rich.
> This is somewhat incompatible with protecting the interests
> of our competitors and enriching their shareholders.
Gentlefolk, while I agree that Sean has been "mostly" right on many
technical issues, I am seriously unhappy with this attitude!

Nor is this attitude unique to Sean.  Since my local ISP and NSP is
Merit/MichNet, and I am an advocate of more regional exchanges, I have
been trying to get them to interconnect with other local providers, so
that local traffic wouldn't have to go through MAE-East (and suffer
30%-50% losses) to travel 3 blocks across town.  They never managed to
do anything in 3 years, despite the willingness of others (specifically
MSEN) to interconnect.

Recently, I asked why they aren't connected to the Detroit NAP.  The
response was "everyone else should connect to MichNet, and pay our
affiliate fee".  I noted that the others consider themselves
competitors, and taking the same attitude would expect Merit to instead
pay THEM, since MichNet generates the most traffic.

Likewise, a lot of traffic from Ann Arbor Michigan to Columbus Ohio
travels via MAE-East, despite the fact that Merit is already connected
to CICnet, which is in turn connected to Columbus (both OSU and OARnet).
The problem is, Merit has no "bi-lateral peering" with CICnet.

Merit doesn't think there is a "cost benefit" to have regional
interconnection and peering relationships.  In some respects, they are
right.  The benefit is not to Merit itself, but rather to its customers
(lower delays), and the rest of the Internet (less congestion at other

The problem is that ISPs are allowed to shove their regional
connectivity out to others on the Internet.  In effect, the _rest_ of
the Internet is _paying_ for the regional underprovisioning.

> Personally, I have little patience for the small and
> not-very-clueful who want to be direct competitors with a
> multibillion dollar company with lots of talent and who are
> taken to whining about my policies and those of my
> colleagues and associates, and even those of our
> competitors.  This uncharitable attitude obviously does not
> endear me to them.
But your attitude that the whiners are "small and not-very-clueful" is
less than useless.  There are some quite clueful folks that don't agree
with your policies, particularly with the failure to peer (and exchange
traffic) with everyone else (even small folks) at an exchange.  (Sprint
is not the only perpetrator of this poor policy.)

The fact is, whether you like it or not, they _ARE_ your competitors
in their specific regions.  But, to thrive, the Internet has a long
tradition of _cooperation_ among competitors.

Kinda misses the meaning of "exchange".  That hurts everyone else on the
net, by increased delay and more congestion elsewhere.

In short, you are asking _others_ to bear the costs of _your_ making
money.  We've seen this time and again, such as the UK provider who
sends all their traffic to the US, which then uses the congested US to
Europe links.  It only saves them money because others were unknowingly
bearing the cost.  Sounds like a form of fraud to me.

> I would hope, though, that the bulk of our customers
> would be much happier with us driving towards a network
> reliable enough that they don't have to worry about their
> customers screaming (not to mention not having to worry
> about facing some very difficult scaling problems we are
> already staring at), than with us being the Department of
> Warm and Fuzzy Feelings.
> All of them know full well that the drive ain't easy.
True.  But there are some particular bones to pick with Sprint, like the
underprovisioned Texas links that kept dropping out, just when Apple
released its 7.5.3 MacOS Update to developers from Texas....

So, let's see some of that vaunted reliability first, please.

WSimpson at
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BSimpson at
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